Ending the 2006 Internal Displacement Crisis in Timor-Leste

Between Humanitarian Aid and Transitional Justice

image of Ending the 2006 Internal Displacement Crisis in Timor-Leste
The 2006 crisis in Timor-Leste saw close to 15 per cent of the population displaced from their homes, threatening to sink the country into protracted instability and violence. Remarkably, less than five years later, the country looks to be back on track, with the internal displacement file from 2006 largely resolved. This study examines the National Recovery Strategy adopted by the Government of Timor-Leste to address the crisis, including the move towards a cash grant programme, and analyses the strengths and weaknesses of national and local measures taken to provide solutions to the displaced. In doing so, the author connects the case of Timor-Leste to the wider debate on displacement, durable solutions and transitional justice, and offers important conclusions for practitioners from each of these perspectives.



Achieving return and resettlement through the cash grant scheme: Selected implementation challenges

At the outset, signs for a successful return of IDPs were not ominous. There was the issue of many IDPs being forced to flee their homes following violent threats and intimidation from their own neighbours. Given the limited prosecution that had taken place in relation to the 2006 crisis, these same neighbours still lived in the neighbourhoods and communities to which IDPs would need to return. Moreover, many of the IDPs in camps were “easterners” who had been pushed out of their neighbourhoods by “westerners” (although the reverse is also true); hence, it was feared that violence against returning families could potentially trigger a wider conflagration that would tear the country apart. Additionally, a significant number of houses and parcels of land left behind by IDPs had been occupied by others in the meantime, not infrequently by the very people who had had a hand in pushing them out. This represented a further potential source of conflict and violence. Finally, the IDPs themselves were fearful of going back and uncertain as to how their former neighbours would receive them. Policymakers agreed that simply providing IDPs with a cash grant and expecting them to return home without any further support or intervention would not only be bad, it is quite likely also a dangerous policy in the Timor-Leste context.


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